In addition to Mike Gonzalez, the Orioles have reportedly inked corner infielder, Garrett Atkins, to a one-year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $4 million dollars. Andy MacPhail is easily one of my favorite GM's after Andrew Freidman, but in a market that has multiple cheaper alternatives, I question the signing of Atkins at $4 million dollars.
It's no secret that Atkins's numbers have declined in each of the last four seasons. It's also not a secret The Rockies have been trying to ship him out of Colorado for quite some time before finally non-tendering him last weekend. After posting a career high wOBA of .410 in 2006, Atkins bottomed out last season and finished with a .291 wOBA. Accompanying that wOBA dip, is a dip in ISO. Once again, after a career high in 2006 of .228, Atkins' ISO was a dismal .116 in 2009. It's true, his HR/FB rate was down around three percent from his normal 10%, but for a player that just recently turned 30, a rapidly declining ISO is not a good sign.
His 2009 BABIP shows there is some regression due for Atkins, but that wouldn't explain all of the power outage. It might produce some more doubles, but hard to see it justifying the major collapse. The good news is Atkins does show a decent batting eye. He will collect a walk nearly 10% of the time while keeping the strikeouts around 15%. Defensively, he is on a rare upward UZR swing for a player headed into his thirties, but a sample size warning; he has played less than 1,000 innings in the field each of the last two seasons.
Much like the Gonzalez deal, the Orioles aren't taking a big risk here; however, is this move really necessary? We know Joshua Bell isn't ready, but I don't see the reason to pay Atkins $4 million dollars to be the stop gap; especially in this market. The going rate on a win in this early market seems to be around $3-3.5 million. Nick Johnson, a likely 2-win player, is about to sign a one-year deal worth around $6 million. For five or six potential wins, the Orioles have spent at least $19 million dollars on Atkins, Gonzalez and Kevin Millwood. That is not much over the market's current rate, still given their likely standing in the division, I don't see the need to pay sticker price in what is shaping up as a buyer's market.
If the Orioles really wanted a corner infielder who could impact them winning the pennant in 2010, this guy is a free agent and can be had for less than $4 million.